Heart Attack Risk Increases for Patients who Stop Taking Daily Aspirin

Heart Attack Risk Increases for Patients who Stop Taking Daily AspirinA new study has found that patients who quit their daily aspirin therapy are at greater risk of experiencing a heart attack.

While aspirin can help lower the risk or heart attacks in patients with heart problems, researchers from the study, published online by BMJ, discovered that the risk of a heart attack increases when the daily aspirin therapy is discontinued. Patients are 60 percent more likely to experience a non-fatal heart attack, regardless of how far into the treatment the patient decided to stop.

Researchers also found that as many as half the patients prescribed a daily aspirin treatment stop taking the pills.

"Unless there is a high risk of serious bleeding or otherwise recommended by a doctor, aspirin should never be discontinued given its overwhelming benefits," lead researcher Dr. Luis Garcia Rodriguez, explained to HealthDay.

The study was conducted by a team from the Spanish Center for Pharmacoepidemiologic Research in Madrid. Data was used from nearly 40,000 patients ages 50 to 84 years through a database of medical records from the United Kingdom called the Health Improvement Network. These patients were prescribed low-dose daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks between 2000 and 2007. Three years of follow-ups were then conducted.

The researchers hope that their findings will lead to better-educated patients, reports HealthDay.

"Our study highlights the need for greater awareness of the increased risk of cardiovascular events… that is associated with interruption of aspirin therapy," Garcia Rodriguez told the news source. "If adherence to low-dose aspirin could be improved, the benefit obtained with low-dose aspirin in the general population would be increased."

According to the Mayo Clinic, aspirin interferes with your blood's ability to clot. Clotting is an essential function in wounds, as cells called platelets plug up the opening and stop the bleeding. However, these platelets can also plug up important vessels that supply blood to your brain and heart. If you already experience narrow blood vessels, due to a buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries, these platelets can block the pathway and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Daily aspirin therapy is often prescribed for people who have already had a heart attack or stroke or for people who are high-risk for either. People considered high-risk for strokes or heart attacks include people who smoke tobacco, have high blood pressure, experience extreme stress, or don't exercise. Other risk factors include diabetes, high cholesterol and family history.

Typically, a very low dose of aspirin is prescribed, from 75 milligrams to 81 milligrams – the same dosage as baby aspirin. In some cases, however, regular strength aspirin is recommended.

This treatment should only be followed after recommendation from one's doctor, as daily use of aspirin can result in internal bleeding and other serious side effects, such as like bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal bleeding, hearing loss, ringing in the ears or a serious allergic reaction. Some drugs can also have negative interactions with aspirin, and daily aspirin therapy can exacerbate those complications. If taking fish oil, an anticoagulant such as warfarin or Coumadin, heparin, corticosteroids, evening primrose oil, ginkgo or antidepressants such as clomipramine or paroxetine, aspirin therapy may not be right to use.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that people with some health conditions avoid daily aspirin therapy, due to the increased risk or bleeding and other complications. These health issues include bleeding or clotting disorders, asthma, stomach ulcers and heart failure.

Taking one to two aspirin when needed, to cure fevers, headaches or body aches, is typically safe for adults.